The aim of this study was to analyze the antibacterial activity of four essential oils (EOs), Melaleuca alternifolia, Eucalyptus globulus, Mentha piperita, and Thymus vulgaris, in preventing the development and spread of extended-spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL)-producing Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae, metallo-beta-lactamase (MBL)-producing Pseudomonas aeruginosa and carbapenemase (KPC)-producing Klebsiella pneumoniae. A total of 60 strains were obtained from the stock collection from the Microbiology Laboratory of Hesperia Hospital, Modena, Italy. Twenty ESBL-producing E. coli, 5 K. pneumoniae, 13 KPC-producing K. pneumoniae, and 20 MBL-producing P. aeruginosa were cultured and reconfirmed as ESBL and carbapenamase producers. Polymerase chain reaction was used for the detection of genes responsible for antibiotic resistance (ESBL and KPC/MBL). Antibacterial activity of the EOs was determined using the agar disk diffusion assay, and minimal inhibitory concentrations (MICs) were also evaluated. Lastly, adhesion capability and biofilm formation on polystyrene and glass surfaces were studied in 24 randomly selected strains. M. alternifolia and T. vulgaris EOs showed the best antibacterial activity against all tested strains and, as revealed by agar disk diffusion assay, M. alternifolia was the most effective, even at low concentrations. This effect was also confirmed by MICs, with values ranging from 0.5 to 16 µg/mL and from 1 to 16 µg/mL, for M. alternifolia and T. vulgaris EOs, respectively. The EOs' antibacterial activity compared to antibiotics confirmed M. alternifolia EO as the best antibacterial agent. T. vulgaris EO also showed a good antibacterial activity with MICs lower than both reference antibiotics. Lastly, a significant anti-biofilm activity was observed for the two EOs (*P < 0.05 and **P < 0.01 for M. alternifolia and T. vulgaris EOs, respectively). A good antibacterial and anti-biofilm activity of M. alternifolia and T. vulgaris EOs against all selected strains was observed, thus demonstrating a future possible use of these EOs to treat infections caused by ESBL/carbapenemase-producing strains, even in association with antibiotics.
Keywords: ESBL; KPC; MBL; antibiotic resistance; biofilm; essential oils.